After application has been made and the evaluation has been successful, the new volunteer team must complete at least one visit with the guidance of a H.A.L.O. mentor. Handlers then move on to their preferred facility's requirements for visiting. Often an orientation is required, and each partnering facility may have a dress code. Members set their visiting schedule. Teams are responsible to contact their resource person should they need to reschedule a visit. Each visit must be documented and forwarded to a designated H.A.L.O. member who will track visits for insurance purposes. Communication between facilities and team handlers is essential to a successful relationship. H.A.L.O. contacts most facilities monthly to insure all is well with all parties.
H.A.L.O. dogs must be a member of the family. This pet partner must be drawn toward people and able to make himself at home in many facilities. The emphasis must be on the individual animal, as each situation is different. Common sense demands obedience as a factor, along with proper hygiene and veterinarian care. Animals are evaluated as the individuals they are. The evaluator must be able to see beyond and look for the wealth each potential team can offer in many different environments.
1. Does my pet socially accept strangers without aggression, timidity, or anxiety?
2. Does my pet enjoy being groomed, or does he become skittish or nip when certain parts of his body are handled?
3. When we take walks, is he at my side controlling the urge to cross over, pull, or tug when he gets distracted or excited?
4. When it is necessary to make a turn quickly, does he become confused and break his alignment to me?
5. Is he able to walk at my side even though we may walk through crowds of people or encounter excessive noise and confusion?
6. Does he understand the commands "Sit, Stay, Down, Leave It, Off, and Come?"
7. As we're walking, can he pass food which may be on the floor or in the hand of another when given the command, "Leave It?"
8. Is he anxious or aggressive when other pets are around?
9. Is he able to be away from me for a short period of time without showing anxiety?
10. Does he become withdrawn or visibly overwhelmed when people are crying, lethargic, or angry?
11. Is he visibly sensitive to crowds, smells, weather changes, or certain drastic changes in the people in his environment?
12. Is he partial to children, teens, adults, or elderly? Does he react the same to different races and cultures?
13. When presented with a loud crash or annoying noise, does he quickly recover or show avoidance by hiding behind me?
14. Does my pet bark when entering a new environment?
15. Does my pet respond by fear or anxiety when weight is placed on his body?
16. Is my pet one who loves to "mouth" objects or the human skin? Does he become involved in licking excessively?
Key Evaluation Points-Handler
1. Your pet must have lived with you for at least one year, and must be at least one year of age. No other person may evaluate as Handler other than the pet's owner.
2. Handlers must disclose any training the dog has been exposed to for personal protection. Schutzhund sport training falls into this category.
3. Prior to the evaluation, the Handler must present a current veterinarian report with all vaccinations current.
4. The dog must be well groomed, free from infections, sores, or stitches, and may not be on antibiotics or anti-fungal medication at the time of the evaluation. Ears must be clean and have no odor, and no excess drainage from the eyes. Nails must be smooth and pads soft. Females in season will not be evaluated during this time. Shedding must be under control, as well as skin dandruff.
5. Should the pet be carried in for the evaluation, the handler must still have a regulation leash, a basket, blanket, towel, or covering of some sort. Don't forget your dog's brush!
6. Should the Handler or pet have a disability, the handler will inform the evaluator previously in order that proper accommodations may be provided.
7. Two dogs of the same family must be evaluated on separate dates.
8. The handler must come into the evaluation at ease. If he is anxious or tense, that travels down the leash and the best of pets become nervous. The "pet parent" must be his pet's sole advocate, and in control of the pet at all times.
9. While making visits, the handler is responsible to outfit the pet with proper equipment. Collars and leashes should not be fashion statements for working dogs. They must fit properly, and be in good taste. Slip, prong, or pinch collars are prohibited, as are retractable leashes.
Each handler must be able to "sweep and scope" the setting before a visit, aware of situations to avoid and those that might need redirection. It is a good idea to always have a exit plan in mind. Being aware of the differences in each facility is essential. We love our pets, but to assume all do or can be coaxed into relaxation when stressed, is likely to surprise us and not in a pleasant way! The handler must be one who can keep negativity in it's place. Team handlers will, at some time or another, meet a person who does not understand the benefits of this type of volunteer work. It is important to accept this, as methods of persuasion usually could be met with a bit of unpleasantness! We must be able to be as intuitive as our dogs are, and use our intelligence in order for this partnership to be effective.
Alex is small but mighty in his ability to bring joy to the many he visits.
"When we are with our pets, we remember a simpler time, even when much of our time here is far from simple. We try to find patterns to follow with every bend of the road, decide what to trust and what to fear. The companionship of our pets is the constant that carries us through."
-Terri Smith, Executive Director